Lent survey: More than half of Germans think fasting 'makes sense'

As carnival celebrations wind down, a survey has identified the items Germans are willing to give up for Lent. The study found people were happier to give up sweets or alcohol than cigarettes, their phones or their cars.

With the Christian fasting season of Lent set to begin on Wednesday, more than half of Germans think that temporarily giving up a luxury item makes sense —  according to a study published on Monday by the Forsa Institute for German health insurance company DAK.

Germany Guide for Refugees | 08.03.2016

Of those surveyed, 14 percent said it was sensible from a health perspective to give up items such as alcohol, sweets and television, while 43 percent said they thought it made sense.

Read more: Nine important things to know about eating and drinking in Germany

Lent follows days of carnival celebrations, where many Germans likely overindulged in alcohol and food, especially in the Rhineland region where the festival has its strongest following.

Among the items people would consider giving up, sweets topped the list, followed by alcohol, meat, smoking, television, mobile phones and computers, and using their cars.

Read more: Germans among world's top drinkers, says survey

The survey collected data from 1,001 respondents between January 9 to 16 and had a three percent margin of error.

More time with 'real friends'

About one in five people said they would like to use their phone and computer less. The main reason behind this was to spend more time with their family and "real friends" rather than on the internet, the survey said.

While 30 percent of respondents said fasting would be "out of the question" for them, two percent of respondents said they had never fasted before but that they would definitely want to try it, and 10 percent said although they hadn't fasted before they could imagine doing it.

Read more: Germans in spending mood on expectations of higher income

Related Subjects

Young people aged between 18 and 29 had the most experience with fasting, with 62 percent saying they had fasted at least once before. They were most likely to abstain from alcohol and sweets, and one in two said they would like to give up smoking for a few weeks.

11 words you need to know to get through Carnival in Cologne

Fastelovend, or: Fasteleer

Carnival, also known as the "Fifth Season," holds such a special place in the hearts of most Cologne residents that they have many words for it. Although Carnival, or "Fastelovend," is said to begin on November 11 each year, the really "great days" start with Ladies' Night, or "Weiberfastnacht" on the Thursday before and runs up until the dawn of Ash Wednesday.

11 words you need to know to get through Carnival in Cologne


Kölsch: It's the only language you can drink. That's the running gag in Cologne, where the dialect and hometown brew share the same name. Normally served in tall, slender glasses, during Carnival it's plastic cups only as no breakable glass is allowed on the street. Should you grab Kölsch at a Brauhaus, though, remember: Bring cash. It's the only way to buy drink tickets in packed pubs.

11 words you need to know to get through Carnival in Cologne

Clowning around with the Jecken

Anyone celebrating Carnival in Cologne is considered a "Jeck." A costume is required - the more colorful the better — to enjoy a Kölsch beer on the streets as a Jeck. Though used year-round to get a feel for your Carnival loyalties, asking someone if they're Jeck can also mean: "Are you nuts?"

11 words you need to know to get through Carnival in Cologne

D'r Zoch kütt!

This expression means: "There comes the Carnival's parade!" High atop the colorful wagons decorated with paper maché sculptures are costumed people who rain down sweets and — if you're lucky maybe a rose — on the crowds. Dance troupes and marching bands likewise get in the mix. The highlight in Cologne is the Rose Monday parade, though smaller neighborhood parades are held throughout the week.

11 words you need to know to get through Carnival in Cologne


"Kamelle" are the sweets thrown from atop the Carnival floats. It used to be hard candy only, but in recent years, chocolate bars, chips and bags of popcorn are thrown as well. If you're hungry, you can try to grab the throwers' attention with a loud "Kamelle" — just be sure to check the pronunciation first so you don't yell Camel! at the crowds.

11 words you need to know to get through Carnival in Cologne


For the grown-ups in the crowd, roses are often handed out but only if you cry "Strüssjer!! Kamelle!!" Sometimes there might even be a kiss given out as well.

11 words you need to know to get through Carnival in Cologne


A "Bützcher" is a big smooch. During the Carnival festivities, expect to get kissed ("gebützt," or to be correct: "jebütz") more than usual. Complete strangers distribute harmless pecks on strangers' cheeks, though some wet Bützcher (in standard Kölsch, "Butz") may also smudge Carnival makeup all over your face.

11 words you need to know to get through Carnival in Cologne

Jet ze müffele

Something to eat — particularly important with high Kölsch consumption during Carnival. Famous Cologne dishes include "Flönz" (blood sausage), "Halver Hahn" (rye bread roll with cheese), "Hämcher" (pork knuckle) and "Rievkooche" (potato pancakes). During Carnival, "Frikadellen" (meatballs) are available as a quick snack almost everywhere (photo).

11 words you need to know to get through Carnival in Cologne


This word refers to pubs, bars or restaurants. Almost all of them take part in celebrating Carnival. They clear out the furniture to create a large dance floor and decorate everything colorfully for six days of celebration in a row. In many local pubs only Kölsche music is played (songs in the Kölsch dialect). You will often find up to 300-meter long queues in front of the traditional pubs.

11 words you need to know to get through Carnival in Cologne

Decke Trumm

A "decke Trumm" is a big fat drum. It sets the beat in many traditional Carnival songs. The drummers strap them on and beat them with a heavy stick. You can impress everyone by beating the drum and describing what you're doing in traditional Kölsch: "op the Trumm jeklopp."

11 words you need to know to get through Carnival in Cologne

Schunkele un danze

In all of Cologne people dance ("danze") during Carnival — on the streets and in the pubs. If a song is in waltz time, people hook into each others arms and sway back and forth according to the beat. This is called "schunkeln." Some famous Schunkel songs are: "Ich ben ene Räuber," "Mir sinn kölsche Mädcher," "Blootwoosch, Kölsch un en lecker Mädcher."

Women more likely to give up meat

There were some clear differences in fasting choices between men and women, the survey found.

Women were most willing to give up sweets while alcohol topped the list for men.

When it came to giving up meat, women were more likely to give vegetarianism a go at 42 percent, compared to 29 percent of men.

Read more: How much meat is healthy?

Churches launch 'climate fasting' campaign

For the 2018 Lent observance, which lasts for about six weeks between Ash Wednesday and Easter, a group of northern German Lutheran churches and the Catholic diocese of Hildesheim in Lower Saxony are encouraging "climate fasting."

The campaign hopes to see people reconsider how much they consume, use less energy and live a simpler lifestyle during Lent while raising awareness about climate protection.